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Have Mac, need wireless access point

Your Mac can be a wireless access point. Here's how.

This week in London I remembered one of the remarkable things that Mac OS X and the Apple hardware provide: wireless access.

By this I'm not referring to the ability to access the Internet through the Mac's WiFi hardware, but rather, the ability to provide wireless access to others using one's Mac. I used it this week to get WiFi access on my iPhone while in my hotel room, so that I'd only have to pay for Internet access once (through my laptop), and avoid Apple's/AT&T's substantial roaming data charges.

For many Mac people, you already know how to do this. For the rest, well, pay attention. It's quite easy, and it can be a nice party trick for making you popular at conferences, company meetings, or other places where Ethernet access is in short supply.

Assuming you have Apple's Mac OS X 10.5, follow these instructions. (They're not much different for earlier versions of OS X.)

First, click on System Preferences. Next, click on Sharing, then Internet Sharing. You'll see a "Share your connection from" dialogue box, which I enable as "Built-in Ethernet" and then "To computers using AirPort." You can set security preferences here, as well, which is a good idea to keep unwanted lurkers off your connection...and computer.

This allows you to use your Ethernet connection to make a WiFi connection for other computers around you, Windows or Mac. It's a great solution if you happen to be in a conference room that has fewer Ethernet jacks then computers.

Is this the best reason to get a Mac? No. But it's a great utility that Apple provides through the Mac, and one that has made me very popular at conferences in the past. I even had a few Linux users shed a tear of envy that their hardware couldn't pull off the same feat. Priceless.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.